Antonio and Staff in agroforestry field, Guatemala
EcoLogic’s newest field technician is Antonio Reyes Montejo, who has been working in the northern municipality of Ixcán, Guatemala for about six months. In this interview, Antonio explains why he loves his new role and why he is so passionate about agroforestry, forest guards, and all of the many strategies of EcoLogic’s conservation work in Ixcán.
What is your role with EcoLogic?
It’s to facilitate, share, and accompany. To be a connector for communities so they can access resources that will help them. I also ensure that our partners know how to best use and manage the resources and strategies that EcoLogic brings to them. Achieving results and being consistent are two of the most important considerations of my work.
How do you believe EcoLogic’s work in Ixcán is making a positive difference for communities?
By accompanying and supporting communities in conserving the land, in reforestation, in implementing alternatives such as seed diversification, sustainable agriculture, and beekeeping, their quality of life is improved. These actions conserve nature and offer benefits to the environment and people’s health. It also benefits families economically because they consume what they harvest and sell some for extra income. Our actions improve the quality of the land and thus, produces a better harvest. And women in particular benefit from fuel-efficient stoves because they don’t have to gather and consume as much wood and their cooking is safer and easier.
What motivates you to conserve nature and work so closely with rural communities?
Nature gives us life. All living beings depend on it. We’re obligated to take care of it, conserve it, and protect it. Nature is our mother.
Plus, I like the work. Working with the communities is inspiring because the families we work with are so grateful and supportive. It’s such a rewarding and important job, in the end we all benefit.
What role do forest guards play in the conservation of Ixcán?
Forest guards play an important role in the protection of forests and their habitat. It’s necessary to maintain constant surveillance and monitoring, especially during burning seasons because many people burn in an irresponsible manner, leading to significant risk of native species loss. In 2015 I took a course to become a forest firefighter so I could contribute to addressing the underlying problem of forest fires. In EcoLogic’s project, those serving as forest guards are in charge of watching and monitoring to prevent forest fires as well as illegal logging of timber species in the communities they live in. They also serve as ‘promotors’ of EcoLogic’s strategies in the communities where they live, acting as local-level resources for their neighbors.
I think it’s necessary to train forest guards and provide them with adequate tools to do good work, since what they have reforested in the last few years in communities could be lost due to the threat of slash and burn agriculture, which is practiced by farmers to prepare their land for planting crops. EcoLogic has worked to curtail the over-use of slash and burn practices, but it’s not something that can change overnight. Rather, it requires continuous work. .
What do you like most about working with EcoLogic?
The relationship with people in the communities, which over time becomes so close-knit. Knowing that we have common objectives to conserve and protect our natural resources is a feeling of belonging. We help communities know that they’re not alone in the constant fight for environmental protection. We reassure them that nature and its resources will last for future generations, so that those generations can live in harmony with a healthy environment. Contributing to making that possible brings me great personal satisfaction.
What is your dream for the communities you work with and for nature in Ixcán?
I would say my biggest dream is to raise people’s awareness about taking care of the environment. We all contribute to the forces that threaten nature. I think that if we are able to understand the harm that our current actions can have on the future, we will be more responsible in our choices. The majority of the time, people don’t consider how their day-to-day actions are harmful to the environment, but added up they become very dangerous. In summary, my dream is that we are more involved and aware, not only for ourselves but also for others.
Antonio’s enthusiasm for reforestation and protecting the biodiversity of Ixcán inspires us, and we hope it inspires you! Your support permits EcoLogic to train forest guards to protect the ecosystems in this region of Guatemala, putting necessary tools into the hands of local people. Thank you so much for continuing to share this passion with us, and with Antonio.
This interview was translated by Amanda Foster, EcoLogic Intern